New York is now the 5th Fattest City in…

Fat vs. Fit AmericaI heard this on the news this morning and looked up the source. Men’s Health announced their annual Fittest vs. Fattest survey of major US cities. Miami tops the list this year of the Fattest – it must be all that Cuban and Latin food (now remember SoBe isn’t technically in the city of Miami).

Topping the list for Fittest surveyed is Salt Lake City, Utah!? I guess being bored might actually translate to health? Here’s the rest of the FIT list:

1. Salt Lake City, UT
2. Colorado Springs, CO
3. Minneapolis, MN
4. Denver, CO
5. Albuquerque, NM
6. Portland, OR
7. Honolulu, HI
8. Seattle, WA
9. Omaha, NE
10. Virginia Beach, VA
11. Milwaukee, WI
12. San Francisco, CA
13. Tucson, AZ
14. Boston, MA
15. Cleveland, OH
16. St. Louis, MO
17. Austin, TX
18. Washington, DC
19. Sacramento, CA
20. Oakland, CA
21. Atlanta, GA
22. Fresno, CA
23. Tampa, FL
24. Nashville-Davidson, TN
25. Pittsburgh, PA

From Men’s Health:

In our exclusive 11th annual survey, a western city reached the top of the (ski) mountain, while a surprising sun-drenched Mecca needs to pull its head (and belly) out of the sand

For those familiar with the region, Salt Lake City’s selection as the Fittest City in America might not be much of a surprise. But even we were stunned when our Fattest City turned out to be 2,539 miles away from Salt Lake City, in Miami. Yes, Miami. Home of South Beach, with its images of tight bodies and scantily attired denizens. Yet despite a wide availability of local running and biking trails, Miamians are 35% less likely than the national average to actually use them.

This is just one of the many gaps between the Fittest and Fattest Cities in America. As we’ve done for more than a decade, MF collected and analyzed reams of data on the 50 most populated areas in the nation in an effort to determine just which cities take fitness the most seriously.

The Top FATTIES List:

1. Miami, FL
2. Oklahoma City, OK
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. New York, NY
6. Houston, TX
7. El Paso, TX
8. Jacksonville, FL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Louisville-Jefferson, KY
11. Memphis, TN
12. Detroit, MI
13. Chicago, IL
14. Dallas-Fort Worth, TX
15. San Jose, CA
16. Tulsa, OK
17. Baltimore, MD
18. Columbus, OH
19. Raleigh, NC
20. Philadelphia, PA
21. L.A.-Long Beach, CA
22. Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
23. Indianapolis, IN
24. San Diego, CA
25. Kansas City, MO

New York, as you can see, is on the chubby chaser list, and this after correctly avoiding the top 10 for the last 2 years. This is wack and easily disproven by visual interpretation of the populous and of course rational thought. Some of MH’s reasoning:

  • The local commute is much more oppressive than in most cities — 54 percent more oppressive than average, leaving less time to exercise and prepare healthy meals. – Comparatively commutes are just as long in the subways as they are in other cities but I don’t think this survey takes into account the stress relief it is, to not have to drive to work, figure out parking, gas, car maintenance etc. Plus we’re open to concentrate on personal time while we commute, read or add some sleep.
  • Our survey has found 87 percent fewer sporting-goods stores in New York than average an indicator of an inactive populace. – Another reason this survey is flawed. This is a walking city and given the considerable amount of open/park space for the largest population in the nation, a count of sports stores in the concrete jungle is not indicative of actual use/purchases. Did they check sales figures too?
  • New York has one pool for every 135,648 residents — 207 percent fewer than average in our survey. – This is a personal peeve of mine as well, but not only pool action but clean, warm beach action is very sparse in these parts. Just because we’re not in the pool showing off, doesn’t mean we’re not laying out in the park getting naked.

Here’s more of the FATTEST List and some detail on New York:

1. Miami, FL
2. Oklahoma City, OK
3. San Antonio, TX
4. Las Vegas, NV
5. New York, NY
6. Houston, TX
7. El Paso, TX
8. Jacksonville, FL
9. Charlotte, NC
10. Louisville-Jefferson, KY

Additional details of some of my favorite cities including NYC, also on the the 2009 veeter’s list:

#4 Las Vegas, NV (I guess there’s not enough anorexic strippers and crackheads in this town to counter balance out the fat lazy gamblers)

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: A-
# Nutrition: B-
# Sports Participation: F+
# TV Viewing: F
# Overweight/Sedentary: F+
# Junk Food: F
# Air Quality: C-
# Geography: B
# Commute: D+
# Parks & Open Space: D-
# City Rec Facilities: F+
# Access to Healthcare: F
# Motivation: C-
# Mayor & City Initiatives: C+
# State Obesity Initiatives: D+

#5 New York, NY

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: F – Do Duane Reade stores count?
# Nutrition: D – eh, there are way too many good restaurants here. People binge and purge.
# Sports Participation: D+
# TV Viewing: B – no one is home to watch TV
# Overweight/Sedentary: C-
# Junk Food: A – YES! not having a BB King or Taco Hell on every corner helps.
# Air Quality: C-
# Geography: F+
# Commute: F+ – again, I walk for a commute so how is this not healthy?
# Parks & Open Space: F – Note they didn’t review the link above = Fail
# City Rec Facilities: F+
# Access to Healthcare: F+ – I can attest to this one
# Motivation: B – If seeing a Victoria Secret model walk down the street every day is not motivation to get fit, I’m sure you can find you’re own here.
# Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
# State Obesity Initiatives: A

What’s Good
Fast food, widely implicated as a contributor to obesity, is less common in New York than most places in our survey. In a per capita comparison there are 73 percent fewer fast-food joints here than average.

New York has “snack tax” laws aimed at reducing obesity and improving nutrition.

New York is one of 28 states that participate in a CDC-sponsored program to reduce obesity and other chronic diseases.

New York has 78 percent fewer pizza places per capita than the average among cities in our survey (this is shocking – I guess they didn’t go into Brooklyn for this survey?).

Donuts are 68 percent less popular here than average (Hello! Dunkin Donuts > Starbucks here), according to a comparison of places where they are sold. New York has the 7th lowest number of donut outlets per capita in our survey.

Ice cream shops are 82 percent less popular in New York than average. (We have helado carts)

What’s Not
The local commute is much more oppressive than in most cities – 54 percent more oppressive than average, leaving less time to exercise and prepare healthy meals. Commuter stress may also raise levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to weight gain and other health problems. (It should be noted that many New Yorkers walk regularly during segments of their commute.)

New York has 1,800 municipal parks, among the fewest of any city on a per capita basis, according to our exclusive survey of municipal park departments. (WOW! so they went by number of parks, not by size. In that case shouldn’t Central and Prospect be 200 each?)

New York’s park acreage per capita is 79 percent lower than average and the 6th lowest in our survey. Research has found a connection between access to parks and green space and reduced obesity rates.

Health-food stores are rare in New York: There’s one for every 28,632 residents, nowhere near the national average of one store per 12,118 people.

Golfers are limited to 12 city-owned courses. Relative to population, that’s less than almost anywhere else we surveyed. (YES! TELL ME ABOUT IT -THIS SUCKS!)

Feel like hitting the public pool for a morning swim? Good luck finding one. New York has one pool for every 135,648 residents – 207 percent fewer than average in our survey.

There are 143 percent fewer tennis courts per capita here than average among cities in our survey. (YES! TELL ME ABOUT IT -THIS ALSO SUCKS!)

Our survey has found 87 percent fewer sporting-goods stores in New York than average an indicator of an inactive populace.

On a per capita basis, New York has 66 percent fewer gyms and health clubs than average, the 3rd lowest in our survey.

More on the Fatties list of interest:

13) Chicago, IL

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: F
# Nutrition: F+
# Sports Participation: B
# TV Viewing: B
# Overweight/Sedentary: B-
# Junk Food: B
# Air Quality: F+
# Geography: B-
# Commute: F
# Parks & Open Space: F
# City Rec Facilities: C+
# Access to Healthcare: C-
# Motivation: A
# Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
# State Obesity Initiatives: D-

15) San Jose, CA

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: F+
# Nutrition: C
# Sports Participation: C-
# TV Viewing: C+
# Overweight/Sedentary: C+
# Junk Food: B+
# Air Quality: D
# Geography: A-
# Commute: D-
# Parks & Open Space: F
# City Rec Facilities: F
# Access to Healthcare: F
# Motivation: C+
# Mayor & City Initiatives: B
# State Obesity Initiatives: A

21) Los Angeles/Long Beach

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: F
# Nutrition: C
# Sports Participation: C
# TV Viewing: B+
# Overweight/Sedentary: D
# Junk Food: A-
# Air Quality: F+
# Geography: A
# Commute: F
# Parks & Open Space: F
# + City Rec Facilities: F
# Access to Healthcare: A-
# Motivation: F
# Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
# State Obesity Initiatives: A

24) San Diego, CA (I still can’t believe there’s some healthy surfers and students in this SoCal spot to push them out of the FAT list)

# Fitness Centers & Sport Stores: C
# Nutrition: A-
# Sports Participation: D+
# TV Viewing: A-
# Overweight/Sedentary: B
# Junk Food: B-
# Air Quality: F+
# Geography: A
# Commute: F
# Parks & Open Space: B+
# City Rec Facilities: F
# Access to Healthcare: F+
# Motivation: F
# Mayor & City Initiatives: C-
# State Obesity Initiatives: A


How good is your cooking wine?

I had this discussion of the holidays about cooking with wine as I too since inception of my time in the kitchen have heard the phrase “Only cook with the wine you would drink.” My pallet is not as sophisticated to the point I can distinguish all the ingredients in a dish let alone the difference in types of coffee. Then over the week I found this article in the NY Times from over a year ago and recommend it to anyone that’s pondered this as well, and for those that don’t need to spend 20-30 duckets on that wine bath for your food:

It Boils Down to This: Cheap Wine Works Fine by Evan Sung for The New York Times

IN the beginning, there was cooking wine. And Americans cooked with it, and said it was good.

Then, out of the darkness, came a voice.

Said Julia Child: “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”

And so we came to a new gospel: Never cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink.

For my generation of home cooks, this line now has the unshakable ring of a commandment. It was the first thing out of the mouth of every expert I interviewed on the subject.

But it is not always helpful in the kitchen. For one thing, short of a wine that is spoiled by age, heat or a compromised cork, there are few that I categorically would not drink. (Although a cooking wine, which is spiked with salt and sometimes preservatives, has never touched my braising pot.)

And once a drinkable wine has been procured, trying to figure out whether it is the best one for a particular recipe can seem impossible. How much of the wine’s subtler qualities will linger in the finished dish? How much of the fruit flavor? Does it matter whether the wine is old or young, inexpensive or pricey, tannic or soft?

Two weeks ago I set out to cook with some particularly unappealing wines and promised to taste the results with an open mind. Then I went to the other extreme, cooking with wines that I love (and that are not necessarily cheap) to see how they would hold up in the saucepan.

After cooking four dishes with at least three different wines, I can say that cooking is a great equalizer.

I whisked several beurre blancs — the classic white wine and butter emulsion — pouring in a New Zealand sauvignon blanc with a perfume of Club Med piña coladas, an overly sweet German riesling and a California chardonnay so oaky it tasted as if it had been aged in a box of No. 2 pencils.

Although the wines themselves were unpleasant, all the finished sauces tasted just the way they should have: of butter and shallots, with a gentle rasp of acidity from the wine to emphasize the richness. There were minor variations — the riesling version was slightly sweet — but all of them were much tastier than I had expected.

Next I braised duck legs in a nonvintage $5.99 tawny port that reminded me of long-abandoned Halloween candy, with hints of Skittles and off-brand caramels. Then I cooked a second batch of duck legs in a 20-year-old tawny port deliciously scented with walnuts, leather and honey. Again, the difference was barely discernible: both pots were dominated by the recipe’s other ingredients: dried cherries, black pepper, coriander seed and the duck itself.

Wincing a little, I boiled a 2003 premier cru Sauternes from Château Suduiraut (“The vineyard is right next door to Yquem,” the saleswoman assured me), then baked it into an egg-and-cream custard to see whether its delicate citrusy, floral notes would survive the onslaught. They did, but the custard I made with a $5.99 moscato from Paso Robles, Calif., was just as fragrant.

Over all, wines that I would have poured down the drain rather than sip from a glass were improved by the cooking process, revealing qualities that were neutral at worst and delightful at best. On the other hand, wines of complexity and finesse were flattened by cooking — or, worse, concentrated by it, taking on big, cartoonish qualities that made them less than appetizing.

It wasn’t that the finished dishes were identical — in fact, they did have surprisingly distinct flavors — but the wonderful wines and the awful ones produced equally tasty food, especially if the wine was cooked for more than a few minutes.

The final test was a three-way blind tasting of risotto al Barolo, the Piedmontese specialty in which rice is simmered until creamy and tender in Barolo and stock, then whipped with butter and parmigiano. Barolo, made entirely from the nebbiolo grape, is a legendary Italian wine; by law, it must be aged for at least three years to soften its aggressive tannins and to transform it into the smooth aristocrat that fetches top dollar on the international wine market.

I made the dish three times in one morning: first with a 2000 Barolo ($69.95), next with a 2005 dolcetto d’Alba ($22.95), and finally with a jack-of-all-wines, a Charles Shaw cabernet sauvignon affectionately known to Trader Joe’s shoppers as Two-Buck Chuck. (Introduced at $1.99, the price is up to $2.99 at the Manhattan store.)

Tasters preferred risotto made with a cheap red wine.Although the Barolo was rich and complex to drink, of the seven members of the Dining section staff who tasted the risottos, no one liked the Barolo-infused version best. “Least flavorful,” “sharp edges” and “sour,” they said.

The winner, by a vote of 4-to-3, was the Charles Shaw wine, which was the youngest and grapiest in the glass: the tasters said the wine’s fruit “stood up well to the cheese” and made the dish rounder. “It’s the best of both worlds,” one taster said, citing the astringency of the Barolo version and the overripe alcoholic perfume of the dolcetto. The young, fruity upstart beat the Old World classic by a mile.

“I’m not surprised,” said Molly Stevens, a cooking teacher in Vermont whose book “All About Braising” (W. W. Norton, 2005) called for wine in almost every recipe.

“If it had been short ribs, you probably wouldn’t have been able to taste the difference when the dish was done, because meat and wine work together differently,” she said.

This might explain how the chef Mario Batali got away with pouring an inexpensive California merlot into the beef with Barolo served at Babbo, as Bill Buford observed in “Heat” (Knopf, 2006), his account of his work at the restaurant.

In an e-mail message, Mr. Batali said he preferred to cook with Barolo when he would be drinking Barolo, saying that “the resulting comparison of the raw, uncooked wine and the muted, deeper and reduced flavor of the wine in the finished dish … allows more of the entire spectrum of specific grape flavor, a dance on the ballroom of the diner’s palate.” (He did not dispute Mr. Buford’s assertion, however.)

Mark Ladner, the executive chef at Del Posto, Mr. Batali’s restaurant on the fringe of the meatpacking district, sees several hundred dollars’ worth of aged Barolo stirred into its version of the risotto, a signature dish, every week.

“My brain tells me it should matter,” he said, “but once a wine is cooked I’m not sure how much even a discerning palate can tell.

“When I make the dish at home, I use a dolcetto d’Alba — a simpler wine from the same region — and honestly I like it even better.”

The difference between Barolo and dolcetto does reveal one hard rule of cooking with wine: watch out for tannins. Found in grape skins and seeds, tannins are bitter-tasting plant compounds that can give red wine and tea some desirable tartness but become unpleasantly astringent when cooked. (Barolo, young Bordeaux and northern Rhônes are examples of very tannic wines.)

“I wouldn’t cook with Barolo even if I could afford it,” said Bob Millman, a longtime wine buyer for Morrell & Co. in Manhattan.

“Tannins are what get you into trouble in cooking,” Ms. Stevens said, because they are accentuated and concentrated by heat. “For reds, err soft,” she said, and choose a wine with a smooth finish.

Are there any other hard rules for choosing wine for cooking? One: don’t be afraid of cheap wine. In 1961, when Mrs. Child handed down her edict in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” decent wines at the very low end of the price scale were almost impossible to find in the United States.

Now, inexpensive wines flow from all over the world: a $6 bottle is often a pleasant surprise (though sometimes, still, unredeemable plonk).

“Often customers come in looking for an inexpensive wine to cook with, and when I steer them to our $5.99 and $6.99 Portuguese wines, which are perfectly good for most dishes, they are uncomfortable with it,” said Gregory dal Piaz, a salesman who specializes in wine and food pairings at Astor Wines and Spirits in SoHo. “They think it is just too cheap.”

At the other end of the price scale, the experts agree that it is wasteful, even outrageous, to cook with old, fine and expensive wines.

“Let’s take the most horrifying example, a Romanée-Conti, among the most subtle and aristocratic wines on the planet,” Mr. Millman said. “There is no way that its complexity and finesse will be expressed if you cook it, even for a minute. The essential flavors that make it a Romanée-Conti will be lost.”

Ms. Stevens said that she divides the vast and bewildering universe of wine into Tuesday night bottles and Saturday night bottles, and that she cheerfully cooks with whatever Tuesday wine happens to be open.

“I really resent opening a bottle just because a recipe calls for a quarter cup of something,” she said, “but the acidity of wine in cooking really is irreplaceable. You can’t just leave it out or sub in another liquid.”

Plain dry vermouth, she said, which lasts indefinitely, is her standby white for cooking. (This was also Mrs. Child’s solution. Red vermouth, however, cannot be used in recipes calling for red wine; it’s too sweet.)

Before these cooking sessions, I would have been suspicious of a recipe that casually called for “Sauternes or another dessert wine,” as Nigella Lawson’s custard recipe does. I still would not swap in a sugary ruby port for drier tawny, or pour Manischewitz into a coq au vin — sweet wines and dry should be kept in their places.

But beyond that, cooking with wine is just that — cooking — and wine is only one of the ingredients that give a finished dish its flavor. Aromatics, spices, herbs, sugar and especially meat and fat tend to erase the distinct flavors of wine.

Mr. Millman, the wine buyer, maintains that cooking with wines that have the same terroir as the food produces the best-tasting results, but Mr. Ladner, the chef, isn’t so sure.

“In my head,” he said, “it tastes better and I like it more, but I wouldn’t like to put it to the test. I like the romance of cooking with wines of the region. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”


A Renewed Commitment

I don’t make resolutions. I don’t believe you should wait till the end of the year to reinvent yourself or improve your life. Of course I’ve failed to make some improvements or honor some commitments that I’ll review and try to make a better attempt to realize those. 2009 will be a fantastic year if for any reason I’ll be married to the woman I absolutely love and ardor.

I do have to make a better commitment to my health. I’ve failed to keep make room in my schedule to exercise more regularly. Maybe it comes with all the travel, working from home or just no inspiration. I continue to have a borderline high cholesterol levels which I need to focus on eating better and consistent exercise. I love to cook, and getting some new kitchen supplies and cook books is putting me in that path. I just sold my gym membership to the gay friendly H Spot, so I have the cash to put into one closer to home – Like Bill Philips would say: “Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it. You can. It’s up to you. Decide to do it and follow through!”

I’ve reviewed my finances, paid my share to the bailouts and am in great standing with all my creditors. It’s time to get liquid and get even more focused on investments for the future. I’m looking to use this downturn as an opportunity to get creative and make some better money while at the same time as everyone else, save money where I don’t need to spend it.

I’ve found myself half-assing a few personal projects. The Gotham Pub Crawl group is going on three years and we either need to get out of the drinking club business all together or turn it up and make it successful. I love web and design so new versions of all three of my sites (the third is the shopping-bargain site) will be in the works including focusing back on old event tactics like personal invites, and global web promotion … on time!

I was taught early on about photography by my grandfather. He had a dark room in his large two story house on a quite school street in Pleasanton, CA. I took classes in high school and he taught me things like composition and cropping of developed photos. I even won a few early student photography awards and ever since I’ve owned a camera. I took the liberty to invest a new camera and bought my first DSLR starter camera. I’ve been researching these and ordered up this EOS XSi last week. I’m stoked that it should arrive Monday or Tuesday. I don’t think I can commit to a photo a day blog but I’m looking forward to improving my skills.


Flying Virgin

Traveling for business, usually takes me to all the major east coast ports at least 4 times a month, unfortunately I’m confined to journey on the corporate sponsored airlines of they typical variety: AA, Delta and Continental. When I actually have the option to travel for personal leisure, I’m using up my JetBlue miles, my defacto airline, as I truly enjoy things like comfortable seats, tasty snacks, wireless access I don’t have to pay for in terminals and working entertainment to distract me or to drown out the annoying long island accents spewing from the neighbors around me.

This holiday season, I scowered the discount airlines on my favorite search aggregator, for tickets back to the bay and came up with decent tickets direct from JFK to SFO via Virgin America airlines. Virgin has been that elusive hot girl at the party, that’s always there when you’ve shown up the girl you had planned to go home with and yet your secretly wanting to be that guy talking to her while yours takes off for a smoke or womans needs.

Since Virgin’s inception in America I had wanted to take a ride on her and now I’m getting my shot. Just like that first time, nothing is going right headed to JFK. Our car service was not coordinated in navigating the holiday traffic and it took longer to get to the terminal than many previous trips. Our driver navigated the side streets of the ghetto east New York yet despite the education and route diversion, his route still didn’t buy us any extra time.

We arrived at the international air terminal, Virgin is the only domestic airline flying out of terminal 4 and at first the idea of this was “sweet”: I’m flying with real travelers, vacationers and not the typical corporate drones I shoulder with in security, pretzel stands and overly sanitized bathrooms. Then depression starts to set in as I realize I’m one of a few not leaving the country or venturing to something more exotic like Belize, Chile, or Monaco. We’ll I guess Hunter’s Point can be exotic at certain times in the evening.

The “Terminal” desk is tucked away from the rest of international passengers as almost an after thought, but they do have iMac check-in desks, complete with a vase of flowers and Post-it note pads for you know duplicating your ticket should you forget to check your gate. After weighting our bags, they don’t have a conveyor to the baggage pick up; here Virgin makes it passengers walk their bags to another check in. This is the most budget aspect of the flight, it’s like having to bus your own tables at any fast food joint.

Security is is thick and unruly this trip, it is the holiday’s of course, we make it through late and with a rush through the cafe line for our snacks just to get on the plane next to last. We’ve been stressed enough through the entire process so the mood purple and blue glow of the interior ambiance is actually a welcome calm. Some breaky down tempo tracks circulate through the cabin, it’s like we just walked onto an iPod commercial set.

Ahhh.. sitting down to nearly new black leather seats and being surrounded by toys, I’m ready to start this trip. Virgin has gone over the top here, with a detachable remote for creating your own music playlist (mostly Virgin record label music of course), standard and premium TV options, and flip the remote over for a game controller for new and old school video games and the ability to chat with anyone else during the flight (hello hottie in the 10th row!). When the food service starts up, you have the option to order food and drinks from the console. Additionally there’s two options to be added at a later date, electronic books/magazines and wifi to be added.

This being a British airline, of course they have a snarky delivery of the safety information. Here’s the animated version here:

The flight was considerably smooth all be it very long (7 hours coast to coast!) but with naps, games, and a few chat sessions with randoms on the plane. The worst part of this experience is Virgin’s RED in-flight entertainment system which needed to be rebooted several times during my flight and failed to resolve at least half of the available TV stations. My cherry has been officially popped.


Wine tours in upstate NY

The last time I went on a wine tour on the east coast was out to Northfork Long Island and the best part of the experience was the scenic drive and just getting some familiarity with LI. The wines were average at best and those that I thought were good, turned out to be sour as my taste had blurred throughout the day.

This past weekend some friends organized another wine tour, this time upstate NY to some of this countries oldest and newest wineries. We started out with taking the Metro North to Salisbury Mills station near Washingtonville, NY. We had a limo service pick us up in a party bus and take us to the first spot on the tour: Brotherhood Winery.

It just happens that this past weekend Brotherhood had their 10th Annual Grape Harvest Festival which included food, craft merchants, bands and long lines at the tasting counters. We were only able to taste one selection of their wines and because of the crowds we were offered a spit of a taste from a small jello shot cup. Smelling the sausage w onions and peppers stand as we walked in, I knew I’d be devouring one of those savory links but we also shared in some of the best food of the festival from the Reggae Boy Cafe with jerk chicken and oxtail soup (check them out in Poughkeepsie, NY).

It was here I realized I wasn’t in “Kansas” anymore as I was surrounded by families, kids and even dogs draped in “Palin Country” and “McCain 08” gear, some of it even ripped up from their front lawns. A few sharp hells of hate against Obama further disturbed me but we weren’t here to canvas but to take in what good, was offered from these upstate wineries. Ultimately I did not like any of the Brotherhood wines that I tasted but I’m sure there’s some gems in there, I never got the opportunity to get there.

Back in the bus with some carnival sweets, we headed to Glorie Farm Winery, located up on a ridge overlooking the valley. A great view for a very small tasting “shack”. Glorie offered a few key wines that I would have bought and locally grown apples as well. It was $5 to taste 5. Of the ones offered, the Seyval Blanc Estate Reserve, Glorie De Chaunac Oak and the Cabernet Franc was a close third.

With a few bottles down, some scenic pics in the memory card, back on the bus we crammed to head to Stoutridge Winery just down the road. The property is the largest of the four wineries we saw and the newest as it has been rebuilt in 2001 from a vandal’s fire. We met Stephen Osborn and Kimberly Wagner, the owners of the winery and received more than our share of lecture before tasting on the gravity-flow winery that uses minimalist winemaking techniques. I think Stephen over sold his wines in the lecture and they just didn’t live up to the description; I would have preferred letting the wine speak for themselves with a follow up on the detail.

I didn’t have any favorite wines at Stoutridge but I did like their hard pair cider so it’s good to see that they are branching out into other areas that could work for them. I would have spent some time on their patio drinking other wines but as we were on Tim’s schedule we needed to make it to the last winery for a taste and get back to the station for our ride home.

We took a drive this time up another ridge to Benmarl Winery which is self proclaimed America’s Oldest Winery where Andrew Jackson Caywood first planted and bottled wine in the Hudson river valley. Now Marlboro, NY, Benmarl is the most romantic of the 4 wineries we visited, located up on the ridge with a beautiful grassy knowel for enjoying the wines or the blues that’s typically played through the summer.

We enjoyed our time at Benmarl so much we blew off the train tickets, bought a case of wine and started popping corks! Over all a fantastic trip up north bearing more fruit than my Northfork excursion. I’d recommend this trip over the long island one any day and was a much more enjoyable drive around the valley.


Two bound Mice

Monday on my lunch break, I had the fan permanently focused in my direction, sitting on the couch watching the dvr replay of Countdown from last Friday. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a gray flash under the closet door. I quickly open the closet and out scurry a small mouse darting for the fridge across the kitchen. Shit we have a mouse.

The night of the party, Olly had told me he had a mouse and when I picked up my equipment one of my boxes was open and would have been accessible to a mouse to hide in. Great I’ve acquired Olly’s guest, or so I thought.

I remember having mice come in to the house from the local fields near our house and remembering how dad took care of em: snap traps with a spread of peanut butter. Still at “work” I blocked of the access to the apt from the fridge with glue traps for bugs. Later that evening I met E at Ace and she encouraged me to buy the glue traps because she had though they were more humane (according to Peta they apparently are not).

I bought four trays of death, placing them around the fridge, office and near the front door and then waited. It was a few days before I saw the mouse pop out again, only to avoid my traps and snap tosses of Tupperware to snag the rodent.

Thursday after work, I was wrapping up the day and ready to head out to happy hour when I heard a rustlin’ by the fridge… A mouse had been snared in the trap and with one foot out of the trap was trying to wiggle free. Sweet!

Friday, however, was not so sweet. E spied another one and we resolved that one was not a fluke, we have an infestation and it’s based behind the fridge. I hadn’t known if that was the only source so we put out the traps again and on Sunday we had the battle royal.

Today, again, Mickey scurried to the closet but it would soon be his last adventure from the dusty domain of our fridge. We quickly created a rodeo ring around the French door opening with the only exit giving access through a glue trap run. Extracting all the shoes, bags and winter gear we forced the second one through the hall of death and caught him in his tracks. This one two didn’t ‘scream’ as I was told and I’m sure it struggled for a few days in the trash bin as two glue traps clasped it to it’s death. The trapped mice problem was superficial and I resolved this begrudgingly by extracting all our house appliances. With steal wool in one hand and a fat tube of cock in the others, I filled all the holes and secured our status as rodent free.

I can now rest easy with my bedroom door open to the A/C and frequent breeze.


A water sommelier?

Now this is getting ridiculous. The absurdity is far reaching including, diluting desalinated seawater from Hawaii (at $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle, what type of cheap water do they add to dilute it) and Bling H2O is marketing a “luxury” brand of water that costs over a million dollars of what you get from the tap ($40 for 750 milliliters, with special-edition bottles going for $480). Read the rest of Shankar Vedantam’s report in the Washington Post.

I’ll stick to New Yorks finest for now…


Heat rocks NYC

We’re day three of a major heat wave in New York this week. It started Friday but wasn’t over 90 F even though with humidity it felt over 90. Sunday’s high in Central Park was 93, just shy of the 95 degree record for the date, set in 1933.

On Saturday, the high was 97 with high humidity so it felt like 105. I spent a few hours running errands and ended up at the Big Apple Blockparty BBQ again this year. Unfortunately we couldn’t do anything but hang in the shade and drink cold brew. We took out the evening with a roof top bbq through the morning.

New Yorkers in general were temperamental in this heat. This weekend’s day game at Yankee’s stadium on Sunday, in the fifth inning of the Kansas City Royals-Yankees game, fans cheered loudly when a cloud moved in front of the sun, then booed moments later when the sun returned.

Also on Sunday was the annual mess that is the Puerto Rican Day Parade. They had problems last year and years before as well as mass woman/sexual harassment during and after the parade but who knows if it got there this year. I doubt people had the energy to flaunt as much excitement as they did last year.

With the heat to continue through Tuesday, still weeks before summer officially starts, I know we’re in for a long hot summer.


Ties are officially out of style for Americans

I’ve never been a fan of wearing a tie. My younger association of ties was my father, daily returning from work with the tie knotted loosely around his collard shirt. My tie fashion was hand me downs from him or rentals worn only on special occasions such as graduations, certain family holidays or proms. Coming out to NY for business the tie became a standard and finally moving here I started to build my collection.

Still, my original daily tie wearing job in NY was more painful for the environment than the wardrobe. Today I’m a tie when I have to for business. I have to encourage my engineer when he needs to wear one and often pre-qualify my meetings for appropriate casualness for the first introduction.

So it’s of applauding news I hear this story. I never knew there was a Men’s Dress Furnishings Association (the trade group that represents American tie makers) and they are now expected to shut down on Thursday. The Association has found the popularity of the tie diminished in American to only 6% of men wear one daily to work (down from 10% in 2002). When people start showing up to your yearly Tie praising meeting… tieless… you know it’s not going well for the longevity of the crew.

From the WSJ:

“Power is being able to dress the way you want,”

The problem for neckwear designers, as for regular guys, is that a tie no longer automatically conveys the authority and respectability it once did, even if it does cause some people to call you sir. In fact, it can be a symbol of subservience and of trying too hard.

Lee Terrill, president of the company’s neckwear group and an executive member of the trade association, is optimistic about the tie’s future and believes the current economic downturn is actually good for his company’s tie business. His reasoning: Laid-off workers will need new ties for job interviews.

Let’s hope I don’t need any new neck ties anytime soon.


A salute to Hysteria

Here’s a little education. From the Wikipedia entry on “Female Hysteria”:

Female hysteria was a once-common medical diagnosis, made exclusively in women, which is no longer recognized by modern medical authorities. It was a popular diagnosis in Western nations, during the Victorian era, for women who exhibited a wide array of symptoms including faintness, nervousness, insomnia, fluid retention, heaviness in abdomen, muscle spasm, shortness of breath, irritability, loss of appetite for food or sex, and a “tendency to cause trouble”.

Patients diagnosed with female hysteria would sometimes undergo “pelvic massage” — manual stimulation of the woman’s genitals by the doctor to “hysterical paroxysm”, which is now recognized as orgasm….

Every normal person, in fact, is only normal on the average. His ego approximates to that of the psychotic in some part or other and to a greater or lesser extent.
~ Sigmund Freud